news Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 05:30

|The News Minute | March 12, 2015 | 2:01 p.m. IST |

"Horse-trading", is a word used quite often by media and politicians. 

So when political parties talk of horse-trading they are obviously not intending to accuse each other of brokering deals for horses.

The term entered journalistic lexicon reportedly due to an article in the New York Times, 10 days short of 122 years ago.

“Horse trading” as it was earlier and literally referred to in the United States of America, was the act of getting the best deal for their steed by traders. As there existed no means to check the actual worth of a horse, traders reportedly used guile, tact and loads of lies to play up their “wares” and colorful aspersions were cast on their supposed lack of morality.

So in 1893, when a law was proposed in California which wouldn’t allow newspapers to lie about their circulation figures, the New York Times wrote a sharp editorial as a rejoinder.

The piece, which starts off by lambasting another proposed law, is up in arms against this proposed legislation towards the end.

“There are newspapers that tell lies not only about their own circulation, but about pretty much everything else. Why stop one kind of lying and permit the other kinds to go on unchecked?” the editorial says.

The NYT also mentioned that these “lies” were not down to increase business, but could be put down to “vanity” on the publication’s part in order to show inflated sales figures.

“Though in horse trading the results are liable to be more serious, it is perfectly understood that each man is endeavoring to outlie the other”, the report says.

The paper ended with saying that any attempt to “legislate self respect” into “liars” should be discouraged.

The use of the term could also have been made popular by the 1898 novel, “David Harum: A Story of American Life”, which was authored by Edward Westcott and focused on the relaxed business ethics of the time.

The term, in effect, came to be used for any deals that could arouse moral suspicion.

And while the book may pride on its legacy to introduce “horse-trading” more colloquially, the NYT could be credited with firmly entrenching it into a journalist’s vocabulary.

Read the original New York Times piece here

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